Cutting the California Conservation Corps: Penny-Wise, Pound-Foolish



Daily Photo

From last night’s fire far across the canyon

The dry conditions this year finally broke late last night but the rain we’re getting barely dampens the ground.  Last year’s drought looks likely to continue into this year.  The terrible fires of last summer could be even worse this summer as the economic policy of our governor includes closing down the California Conservation Corps.  This would be a tragedy as the Corps is known for its work in many areas including fire suppression.

Cristina Bauss‘ excellent article in Tuesday’s Independent (unfortunately, not online so I can’t link to it!) points out that the Corps performed 622,000 hours of fire response work last year alone. The cost to tax payers for the program is a measly 17 million per year.  The fire suppression efforts provided by the CCC last year would have cost the tax payers another 20 million if they were performed by a private entity.

Fire suppression is not the only area the Corps helps save money.  Estimates from CALTRANS say thatusing the CCC saves 2.6 million in maintainance costs last year.  Our local Corps also works with the Matole Restoration Council, the Eureka Zoo and the State park system as well as other agencies and private parties.

I care not just as a tax payer though.  I care as a mom.  As I said on another local blog,

I’ve been watching this story with a knot in my stomach.

The Corps provides a structured setting for kids who for various reasons aren’t quite ready to survive on their own.

The labor they provide to the area (recently they spent several days at the Eureka Zoo) is the least of what they offer. The Corps helps kids get an education (several attend CR and others are finishing high school diplomas) and learn work skills that make them better employees in the private sector later.

They also have a military style boot camp atmosphere that helps boost physical fitness. One boy is there to get in shape for the army.

My son is currently at the Fortuna office. He is working as a cook and just got his first paycheck for about $900. The rest went for room and board. I love to hear the pride in his voice as he discovers what he is capable of.

He’s found a place to experience espirt de corp–helping both himself and society. Killing one more option designed to help young people become productive members of society is short sighted and we will all be the poorer should it be dissolved.

For more information on how you can help stop Governor Schwarzenegger’s attempt to end this excellent program go to



  • You are so right kym. If we dont start getting some serious rain soon this coming fire season is going to be unbelievable. I remember the drought of the late 70’s and I am really nervous about that same thing happening again. I can’t imagine how these fire camps will run without the corps. My husband has worked at the corps for over 30 years and he has been on fire, flood,earthquake,and even went to the Gulf coast after the hurricanes. He has worked with many fine young people over the years and so many have come back with really rewarding careers built on their time with the corps. There are some that make them look bad but they are the exception not the rule.

  • Kym, the situation all over California doesn’t look good. As you know the rest of the nation cares very little about what happens to California. They feel like we think that we’re above it all, so they just leave us to solve our own problems.

    We screamed at our politicians for years that there would be hell to pay if they let the American’s jobs slip away. It all started with Reagan, who thought that the American workers were to powerful, and needed to lose a few jobs to keep inflation down. The jobs slipped overseas one by one, and the stock market went wild. It’s hard to train a hog to stop eating ducks after they’ve tasted one. Soon all of our jobs were offshore. It’s hard to pay bills when you don’t have a job. Many people just gave up, and are living on the street, or at a much reduced income. It’s very offensive to me to see them bailing out Wall Street, the very people that caused this economic mess. They should be bailing out grass roots workers. They need to start building infrastructure and, seeding jobs that provide real productivity in America. Growing things and building things. The money will get to the top soon enough, believe me!

    Last year Calfire was cut back to the point that ALL of the local volunteers were called out at one time or another. I even took a picture of our empty fire station and posted it on my blogsite. As of yet we have not been reimbursed for our time spent working for Calfire. Not even an IOU. The local fire stations have already been robbed of funding by the state. Unless we get some funding for our departments we will not be able to cover for Calfire.

    The situation is bleak to say the least, and it doesn’t even make me feel better to tell them I told you so! If we don’t see some real money getting down to the street level, and soon, we will have certain disaster. So far all I hear out of Washington is the sounds of fiddles playing.

    Thank-you for being concerned about our community and sounding the alarm.

  • I just heard that all California State Departments are required (not sure when this is effective) to effectively lay off their employees for two days per month to help with the budget. Things are bad all over, but somehow I think being without the CCC is definitely going to be a bad move.

  • Things are tough all over. Bluelaker, the job layoffs start tomorrow. Kevin spends his first day home and I get to drive my son to his class instead. Basically a 10% paycut!

  • It is a bad idea. These are the things we need to fund, just like we did in the Depression. We have our own budget struggles up here in Washington, but so far it doesn’t seem this bad. Although we are cutting Health and Human Services, which is also penny-wise and pound foolish.

  • My dad was in the CCC’s before the 2nd world war. We are all to blame for these crises as we voted for prop 13 out of our own greed. One of the unintended consequences sp was to give the republicans the ability to block tax increases with a minority of members. We still give them power of the state and national level. We will never get anywhere until we get rid of them and their fellow travelers the bluedog dems.

  • I so hear you, Kym – Bobby was laid off months ago and I just took a 40 percent paycut – but crazy that they want to cut CCC. What kinda world are we living in? Sheesh…

  • Ah, that explains a remark you made in a previous post about Kevin not working Friday. A whole lot of belt-tightening going on all over.

  • Songbird, my husband works at CALTRANS and he says the corps (and the cons, too) help tremendously cut down on costs.

    Ernie, with the fires of the last years likely to happen again this summer, Calfire is going to have trouble taking care of business with funding cuts and with the Corps possibly being cut. I’m pretty worried.

    Silverstar, The CCC was based on a group started during the depression to put people to work while accomplishing tasks that need to be done. Now as we are entering times that mirror the Great Depression seems like a bad time to be canceling such a useful organization.

    Tom, I agree that Prop 13 needs to be updated–changed. The state is in a terrible crisis.

    Jen, I read your post and wanted to say I know how you feel but I knew that wasn’t true. YOu have it so much tougher than I do that I just shut up!

    Bluelaker, Yep. I was talking to someone at Ray’s in Fortuna and they were telling me that they’re seeing customers penny pinching and looking for bargains more than at any time in the past!

  • My uncle, from Alabama, was one of those Depression era C’s who helped build the bridge at Russian Gulch in the ’30s. Another benefit was for a poor southern kid to see the world outside his home area for the first time. A national service is just what we need again.

    I posted your “Save” link to my Facebook page.

  • Elaine, I’m clueless about Facebook so am unsure what you did. ??

  • This is madness: the CCC should be EXPANDED right now!

  • Pingback: Keep the California Conservation Corps « Continental Shelf

  • Not to step on anyone’s toes politically speaking, but I believe much of the source of the problems CA is suffering fiscally can be left at the feet of the Republican party.

    They have spent years, especially since Reagan, convincing Americans that taxes are a four-letter word. They act as if we can have governmental services for free.

    Let’s face it, taxes pay for those goods and services that folks want and/or expect from their government. But the Republican party has convinced folks that you don’t have to pay taxes to get those very goods and services.

    As Oliver Wendell Holmes stated, “I like to pay taxes. With them I buy civilization.”

  • Remember that Reagan, when he saw that the budget problem was insurmountable, actually raised taxes. That and killing the Dos Rios Dam are the only positive memories of him I can think of. Oh yeah, great suits.

  • Pictures in the LA Times of Conservation Corps Cleaning up the mudslides in my old hometown Sierra Madre near Pasadena. Plenty of Republicans in that town. Maybe they’ll be thinking, now.

  • With all the funding problems, I hope your coming summer is not as devastating as ours has been – In Victoria we lost 93 people (confirmed so far) on Saturday. The whole nation is in shock.

  • Pingback: The CCC lives on — for now « Continental Shelf

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